Visa Run Preparations For Expats

Passport visa run stamps How to have a fun visa run

Schedule:

– Wake up at 5:30 AM

– Enter the minivan at 6:30 AM

– Drive for five hours to the Cambodian border crossing

– Cross the Cambodian border at Ban Pakkad

– Write, sign, copy, stamp, smile

– Cross the border into Thailand

– Drive back home for five hours

Back home you are a stamp richer and a day poorer. Sounds like a lot of fun…? Probably not, but why not make the best of your trip. In this article I give some advice about how you can make your trip as comfortable as possible. In the article I focus mainly on expats/travelers in Thailand who need to to make an organised trip across the border.

Alone or organised 

Once, when I was still a visa run rookie, I thought that it would be fun and cheap to do a visa run on my own. So off I went to the Cambodian border crossing at Poi Pet. Boy did I have it wrong. The adventure started with a long and uncomfortable train journey and ended with a nasty scam. Eventually, I returned home a lot of frustrations richer and a lot of baht poorer.

Do you want to experience a comfortable visa run? Then choose to travel with an agency. You might pay a little bit extra but your journey will be fully organised, and you only have to follow the agency staff from one place to another. Very convenient, and maybe you are able to make some new friends among your fellow travelers.

Choose an agency

So which agency should you choose. Do some research and start by checking to which border crossing they bring you. Some destinations can be a real hassle. Poi Pet, for example, is a chaotic and miserable place full of scammers. However, it is a popular spot to cross the border, which means long queues at immigration. I recommend you book a trip to Ban Pakkad with Meesuk Travel. A very quick and convenient visa run.

When doing research it is also wise to check the departure/arrival point and time of the transport vans from the agency. Early departures from a good location are beneficial because the driver is able to leave the city quickly. You will most likely be back before the darkness and the start of Bangkok’s notorious rush hours. Good for your time and for your safety.

Rules and requirements

Make sure to ask the agency about the current visa regulations when you contact them to make a reservation. The Thai visa rules change often. Avoid unwanted surprises. Do not leave your house without at least three passport pictures (make sure they apply to the latest photo requirements) and bring some xerox copies of your passport.

Often you can make copies at embassies or border crossings but avoid the extra hassles of looking for a copy machine and standing in line. Also make sure you book a trip at least a few days before your visa is expired. Then you will have some spare days if something goes wrong. Unnecessary overstay charges are expensive.

Entertainment

Your going to be on the road for a full day so find some ways to entertain yourself, and make sure that you stay entertained for the whole trip. For example, bring a book or music player. I personally like to bring my laptop so that I can work or watch a movie. I also make sure that my phone has a portable Wi-Fi connection so that i will have a hotspot during the trip.

Your phone battery will not last long, when you use it as a portable hotspot, so I advice you to buy and bring a power bank. This very useful gadget can be used to charge your phones battery. Another option is to bring a USB stick and charge your phone with the power of your laptop. I also advice to bring a soft pillow for the best entertainment of all.
Use a power bank to recharge your phone

Snacks and drinks

A certain amount of food and drinks will be included in the price of your trip. However, do not only depend on the agency for your nutrition intakes. I advice that you also pack some snacks and drinks. Especially if you are, like me, picky about what you want to consume.

Ready to go

Now you are ready for a hassle free trip to the border. Remember to smile to the customs officers, drink enough water and talk to your fellow travelers. Don’t forget to take a look out of the window during the trip. Enjoy the scenery. The beautiful countryside of Thailand deserves an observation.
Did you ever participated in an organized visa run? Which company did you choose and how was your experience?
Useful links

  • Meesuk Travel: This is the website of the visa company that I usually use. They have good connections and they offer a decent visa run service. Expect to make a lot of Filipino friends as those are the people who mainly travel with this company.
  • Ultimate Thai VISA Guide: Looking for some original ideas for visa runs? Read this excellent guide from bloggers Allan Wilson and Fanfan Narach. On their blog, Live Less Ordinary, they provide a list of the best countries and cities for visa runs, along with other useful travel information.
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100 Tonson Gallery – Showcasing Thai Contemporary Art

 

100 Tonson Gallery in Bangkok100 Tonson Gallery – A force for contemporary art

I feel uneasy when I enter the building for the first time. My knowledge of contemporary art is very small. Therefore I am a bit embarrassed when I see a small privately owned collection, which is on display in just two rooms. I expect to be in and out in only a few minutes.

However, the small exhibition room creates the opportunity for a more personal approach. The gallery’s friendly assistant, Harmiss starts a conversation with me. He takes the time to tell me everything about the gallery and its exhibitions. I am surprised to hear from him that this small art house has a big international reputation.

100 Tonson Gallery

The gallery opened in 2003 and just celebrated its 10th year anniversary in January 2014. Despite of its small size, this art house is pretty famous and important in Southeast Asia. For example, it is Thailand’s first and Southeast Asia’s only gallery that has been showing its works at Art Basel. This is one of the most important international fairs for contemporary and modern art.

This art house gained its important position because of its many international connections and its presence at important international fairs like Art Dubai and Art Stage Singapore. 100 Tonson Gallery supports (emerging) artists by showcasing their works, and supporting the development and distribution of (contemporary) art.

Location

The address of the gallery is at 100 Soi Tonson, Ploenchit Rd in Bangkok. Soi Tonson is a quiet and green street with lots of trees and upper class houses. The artworks are being displayed in one of those houses. It is named after the street in which it is located.

Getting there

Take the BTS SkyTrain (Sukhumvit Line towards Bearing) to station Chit Lom. From there take exit 4 and walk in the opposite direction of the traffic. After about 100 meters you will see a street sign that says Soi Tonson. Turn right and walk about 300 meters into the street. You will find the building on the opposite site of the Royal Dutch Embassy.

Soi Tonson

What to see

On display are the private collections of founder Ek-Anong “Aey” Phanachet. The exhibition room itself is designed by Christian Liaigre. The exhibitions consist of contemporary works from Thai and international artists. The collections change every two months. Famous artists who have displayed works in the past are for example Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama and Pinaree Sanpitak. You can enter the exhibition room for free.

Tip

Do you like to visit galleries in Bangkok? Then make sure you obtain a free copy of the Bangkok Art Map (BAM). This useful monthly brochure provides you with updates about the latest exhibitions and where you can find them. You find the Bangkok Art Map at information counters of museums and galleries.
What is your favorite gallery in Bangkok and what makes you like it so much?
Useful links

  • 100tonsongallery.com: The official website of this gallery. Visit their site to learn more about current exhibitions and activities. You can also read more information about the artists which showcased their work in the exhibition room. The site also provides many pictures of the displayed artworks.
  • sea.blouinartinfo.com: Click this link to read a BLOUINARTINFO interview with Aey Phanachet.  In this interview, which she gave back in March 2013, She talks about the 10th year anniversary shows and the importance of introducing (Thai) contemporary art to the world.
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Art And Culture In Bangkok

Bangkok Art and Culture CentreArt and Culture – Sophistication in a rough city 

An elderly woman who combs the grey hairs of her husband, colorful protesters who raise the Thai flag in front of colorless policeman, the Baiyoke Sky Tower surrounded by the calm dark blanket of the evening. Aspects of the daily life in Thailand, captured by artists and admired by me in Bangkok’s Art and Culture Centre.

Location

The Bangkok Art and culture Centre (BACC) has a very convenient location. It is situated at 939 Rama I Road in the middle of the city centre. The building stands next to the MBK shopping mall and the National Stadium BTS SkyTrain station. Other nearby buildings are Siam Discovery and Siam Paragon.

Getting there

Take the BTS SkyTrain to the National Stadium station. From there it is only a short walk to the Art and Culture Centre. You can reach the building via the skywalk that is connected to the BTS station. You can also get of at Siam station and take a 5 minute walk. You reach the BACC by walking in the direction of Siam Discovery. Opening times are 10:00 AM till 21:00 PM (closed on Mondays)

BACC next to the MBK Mall

What to to see

At the lower floors of the building you find a variety of shops, which sell artistic products. For example t-shirts with creative prints, colorful post cards, shining jewelries and large paintings. The building also houses an art library and some restaurants and cafes. There are exhibitions at the higher (7th, 8th, 9th) floors of the building. These exhibitions show the works of various (Thai) artists.

The art

The displayed artworks impressed me, especially the paintings. It was nice to discover that many Thai painters really manage to capture the beauty of every day live. It made me realize how beautiful every day life can be. The artworks also have interesting names, which make you think about what you see, like the paintings they capture the imagination.

Why you should visit the BACC

This art gallery in Bangkok is a very convenient sight to visit during daytime. The place offers a calm, cool and sophisticated escape from a hot and rough city. The gallery is not crowded with tourists and you will enjoy the cool air conditioning instead of the boiling sun. Another good point is that you can enter the building for free.

Tip

At the ground floor you find a little restaurant/cafe which is called Art Cafe. It is a nice place to sit down after you walked around in the building. The friendly staff serves good food and drinks. Sit down and listen to some relaxing music, or start working on some of your own art if you got inspired by the creative atmosphere.

Art Cafe in BACC

Do you visit art galleries and museums on your trip? What is your favorite museum in Bangkok?
Useful Links

  • www.bacc.or.th: The official website of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Learn more about BACC and its current exhibitions.
  • BACC on TripAdvisor: Do you want to know if it is a good idea to visit he Bangkok Art and Culture Centre? Read information and reviews about this sight on TripAdvisor and make an informed decision.
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Amulet Market Talismans For Luck And Charms

The Amulet market A peek at the Phrachan Amulet Market 

I stare into the red crystal eyes of a small charm. I feel attracted to this strange little object and I am considering to buy it, but then again what do I bring into my house when I purchase this object? Scenes of horror movies run through my head. Will I be cursed or blessed? will I get rich or poor?

I got sucked into a dense network of talisman shops and now I am surrounded by small figures of smiling Buddhas, strange amulets with prints of old monks, charms with exaggerated body parts and lucky teeth in dentures. What fate will these object bring me? I do not know, but I am here to find out.

 A peek at the Amulet Market

This article provides a peek at the Amulet Bazaar in Bangkok. There are many interesting markets in the capital city of Thailand but this bazaar surely is one of the strangest among them. At the various stalls you can buy talismans, charms and small statues. Many Thai people collect or carry these objects. Especially taxi drivers, collectors, monks and people with dangerous jobs are frequent buyers of these products.

Getting there

Assuming that you will come from the center of Bangkok you can take the BTS SkyTrain to Saphan Taksin station. From there you can take the Chao Phraya Express Boat. Get of at the Tha Chang pier. From there it is only a 5 minute walk to the Phrachan Market.

Location

The Phrachan Market is situated at the streets between the Grand Palace and Thammasat university. You find the vendors at Th Maha Rat and Th Phra Chan. Next to Th Phra Chan you will find a covered section which also houses a large variety of vendor shops.

What to see

At the bazaar you find a huge amount of charms and talismans. People are also selling dentures and various statues. The products show figures from Buddhist, Animism and Hinduism faiths. Some of the products have low prices an and others are extremely pricey, especially if they are authentic and when they portrait important monks. You will also find food stalls and shops which sell other products like clothes, books or traditional herbal medicines.

Meaning of the amulets

The amulets and charms serve various purposes. For example you can buy charms that keep your mother-in-law away or talismans who will protect you. There are also charms with red crystal eyes. You buy them to attract potential lovers. They are called Phra Ngang. Most of the talismans and charms are coming from temples in places like Ayutthaya, Sukhothai and Lopburi.

A Phra Ngang charm

The dentures are also coming from temples in Thailand. They are made from the teeth of dead people. People buy them if they need new teeth. They also provide luck to those who purchase them, because they where taken from religious spots. That is why people think that the teeth are blessed.

Why you should visit this sight

The Phrachan Bazaar seems the place to be when you want to start your own temple. The bazaar is suitable for visits during daytime as large parts are covered with a roof. It is an excellent place for buying authentic souvenirs and a must see for collectors and lovers of religious objects.

Did you ever visited the Amulet Market and do you believe in charms and talismans? Share your experiences and opinions in the comments section below.
Useful links

 

How To Find An Apartment In Bangkok

 

How to find an apartment in BangkokLearn how to find an apartment in 9 easy steps

Finding an apartment in Bangkok is relatively easy. However keep in mind that you have to be patient, persevered and confident. Having some knowledge of the Thai language also go’s a long way. But no worries, there are many rental opportunities in Bangkok. If you are determined then you will find the right spot for the right price.

In this article I teach you how to find an apartment in Bangkok. When reading this article, keep in mind that I am focusing on one room rental opportunities in the price range of 100 to 300 dollars (about 3500 to 1000 baht). Of course the sky is the limit when you want to have a bigger home, but do not expect to get something decent if you want to rent for lower prices.

Step 1. Choose the area

The first important decision you have to make is the area in which you want to live. There are a few things you might want to consider when choosing a living area:

  • Is it the city center or a suburban area?
  • Is it a touristic area or a place with manly locals?
  • Is it a cheap or expensive area?
  • Is it a quiet or a busy area?

Living in the center is nice and convenient but the place will most likely be very touristic, busy and expensive. In addition, if you live outside of the center, you might have to spend more time and money to get to your places of interest. Check your area carefully to see what is available so that you avoid spending time and money on traveling around.

Where to go

I recommend Ramkhamhaeng if you want to live in a cheap area. This is a student area with many great restaurants and markets. Rooms and food prices are cheap but traveling can become a bit expensive due to lesser public transportation options. Sukhumvit is a nice area if you want to live in the center. More expensive but also more comfortable because you can enjoy the conveniences that a city center has to offer.

Step 2. Choose the neighborhood

Choose your neighborhood carefully. Look at the same attention points as with choosing the area, cheap or expensive, busy or quiet etc. Most neighborhoods are really safe places. However, I recommend living in a lively neighborhood with wide roads, which are well lit. It is most likely not criminal Thai people you have to worry about, but at night many unpleasant stray dogs roam around in the dark small allies.

Personally I like living in a lively neighborhood. You have a lesser change of getting attacked by something. It is also very convenient when you have many shops in your neighborhood, so that you do not have to travel far for any needs. Try to find a place in a local neighborhood. The prices are better, the people are more friendly, and you will not be bothered by annoying tourist hunters like tuk tuk drivers.

Step 3. Walk around

After choosing the area and the neighborhood it is time to start walking around with focused eyes. It is time to look around for the perfect spot. You can also choose to look online. However, I do not recommend this. Rental prices are often not up to date, talking on the phone can be difficult and you can not directly check the room. You will succeed quicker if you stroll around at your target destination.

When searching, try to bring a friend who can speak and read Thai. Many buildings have signs which say apartment for rent but many of those signs are written in Thai. Your friend can recognize those advertisements, and he or she can also speak with the building staff when you are interested in renting a room.

Step 4. Choose the building

When choosing an apartment building it is important to check the surroundings of your accommodation. Are there any noisy construction works going on? Is the place connected to a lively street ? Living close to a lively street is an advantage. For your safety it is important that you reach the main street quickly. Remember those dogs? They love to hang around in small and dark places.

Bangkok’s populations is increasing and so are its buildings. Construction is booming but booming means noise. For sure you do not want to wake up every morning because of construction sounds. I had to live with this inconvenience for six months as they where building a new building next to mine.

Step 5. Open doors

Have the courage to open doors. Step inside to ask for information. Don’t be shy and ask at every place that attracts your interest. Even if you think it is above your budget. When we went looking we where too picky. We ignored buildings which where labeled as mansions or resorts. thinking the rental costs would be to expensive.

The next day we dropped that thought. That decision opened up a whole new world. We figured out that even expensive looking resorts with swimming pools and fitness centers where offering affordable rental prices. You can walk past your dream location just because you think it will be to expensive. Don’t be picky and check every opportunity. Maybe you even decide to spend a little more because the place is so awesome.

Step 6. Check the room

Check if the building suits to your needs. Make sure to pay attention to the following points:

– What is the condition of the air conditioner?  Is it new or old? A new air conditioner can safe you a lot of money on electricity costs.

– Does the room have a water heater for the shower? Not necessary in a hot climate but maybe you hate cold showers.

– Does the room have a balcony? An absolute must for me but a room without it can be cheaper. Pay attention to the position of the balcony. You can have a problem with your privacy when your balcony faces the one of your opposite neighbor. I prefer an open view.

– Does the room have furniture?  Available chairs, closets, tables and a bed are important items for the traveler who settles only for a short period. Make sure you avoid having to buy those items.

– On which floor is the room situated? Higher floors are more hot (hot air goes up) but they can be more convenient as well. The higher you go the less sound you hear from the busy street.

Step 7. Discuss the rental conditions

Are you satisfied about the room? Then it is time to discus the rental conditions with the owners/staff. What are the renting costs? How much do you pay per electricity and water unit? Does the building provide WiFi and how much does it costs per month? are there any other costs? How much deposit money do you have to pay? Are you allowed to have guests? Are you allowed to cook in the room?

Step 8. Make the decision

Do not settle to quickly just because you are tired of looking. Remember that you make a decision about where you are going to spend most of your time. It needs to be a convenient place where you feel safe and comfortable. It can really suck if you signed a rental contract for six months only to realize in the first week that the room is not fulfilling to your expectations.

Step 9. Move in

Did you find your dream location? Then it is time to move. I always recommend that you travel light if you are a long time traveler. You can save a lot of money if you only have a few small bags. However, if you have a lot of stuff then you can choose different useful transportation options.

Do you have Thai friends? Check if you know someone with a pick up truck who can move your stuff to the new place. Maybe your friend is willing to do it for a free or for a cheap price. You can also ask a tuck tuck driver to move your stuff. For once these tuck tucks can prove to be useful. Small belongings can also be transferred with the help of a taxi.

Useful links

  • 9apartment.com: You can use this site If you decide to look online for an apartment. There are many offers on this website, but keep in mind that the provided information is not always up to date.
  • How to rent Cheap Apartments in Bangkok,Thailand: A very informative article from fellow blogger Mark Wiens. He describes how you can rent a cheap apartment in Bangkok. The post provides a lot of useful information. For example where to look and the rental costs that you can expect.
  • Fixed Costs For Renting in Bangkok: After one rental month you will have to pay the bill. Read this article about fixed costs and know which prices you can expect.
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Do you have any other tips for renting an apartment in Bangkok? Post your tips or questions in the comments section below?